Monday marked a historic day in the Syrian peace process. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the capital Ankara. They also met separately before the fifth trilateral summit of the Astana process. Syria's last opposition stronghold of Idlib was the main focus of the discussion, given that the city holds the future of millions of civilians. The three leaders vowed to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the region and agreed to ease tensions. The situation in Idlib is alarming. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom had fled to the city from other parts of Syria, have now moved toward the Turkish border to escape air strikes carried out by the Syrian regime. But given the fact Turkey already hosts almost 4 million Syrian refugees it would be difficult for Ankara to deal with another wave of refugees. "We are going through a period when we need to take more responsibility, carry more weight for peace in Syria," Erdoğan told the meeting.
After the meeting, the three leaders made a joint statement saying they agreed on taking concrete steps to try and stop the violations of previously negotiated agreements.
The statement added that the three leaders agreed on the composition of a constitutional committee to move on to the next phase of a political solution in Syria.
I think this point makes Monday's meeting historic. The three big actors in Syria agreeing on finding a political solution speaks volumes and could mean that the violence and war would come to an end. Turkey also shared its plans for a safe zone that could host at least 3 million refugees in northern Syria with the Iranian and Russian leaders.
The next trilateral meeting in Tehran will focus on regional and international developments as well as cooperation in different areas.
The fact that President Erdoğan described the talks as "productive" is of great importance. We should remember that Russia and Iran have been the big defenders of the Bashar Assad regime, which Turkey finds to be an obstacle for peace in Syria. But every actor is rethinking their positions and is looking to bring an end to the violence. I think this is what came out of the Ankara meeting. They agreed on the need to finally move to the next level of discussing a new constitution for Syria. Erdoğan's comments that "we are in complete agreement on a lasting political solution for Syria's political unity and territorial integrity" hits home.
It is also important that the leaders avoided providing any specifics on the talks so that they could conclude with a joint statement. With Turkey's efforts, the next level of the Syrian peace process may begin, bringing an end to the war and uniting the country under a new constitution.
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